So, I constantly mentioned this thing called bullet journaling in my last post, so what on earth is it.
“The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.” – Ryder Carroll (the inventor of the bullet journal)
Basically, it is an organisation system, journal and to-do list all in one, a system that can be anything and everything that you want it to be. And it all begins with a notebook, and a pen; any notebook and pen. I started my bullet journal journey with a £4 notebook from ‘The Works’ and the pens I had at home. I have since brought more pens than I would like to admit, and I have a new (more expensive) notebook which I just moved into at the beginning of January. But none of this was necessary; I could still be using the biro and a £4 (or less) notebook and I would still love my bullet journal.
Before I say much more, I urge you to follow this link, and watch the video from the creator. It will make the rest of this blog post make much more sense! I may repeat bits of it later, but it will give you a much better idea of what a bullet journal is.
Before beginning my bullet journal, I tried so many planners, diaries, journals, anything to help my organisation, or to record my thoughts and feelings. Until I discovered this system, I had never stuck at any of them for more than about a month; bar my school planner, which we got daily reminders to use – and I stopped using this when I moved to sixth form and no longer had the daily prompt! I am now at the beginning of month seven, which means I’ve used it for half a year, and have no inclination, at all, to stop. I am not the first or the last person to say that sentence (or sentences if you want to get pedantic), which should tell you just how great this system is.
For me, the last six months in my bullet journal have been a massive experiment, finding what I like, what works for me, what might really work for others but doesn’t at all for me, how I am the most productive, creative and organised using this system. I think that is part of what makes me excited to use it every day. If I try something that doesn’t work, or I do something that I really like, I can just turn the page and try again. Also, if I miss a day or two, there is no guilt when I go back, no blank space staring at me, nothing other than a notebook that every time I look at it makes me smile.
I also love the option to be as creative, or as simple as I want. I can do anything in my bullet journal. If I want to try some drawing or doodles, some fancy handwriting or lettering, great, but if I want to just use a black pen and my normal handwriting that is okay too. I think the first thing you have to let go of when starting a bullet journal is the want or need for it to be perfect, you need to look at it as a work in progress, not a finished product.
Rather than continuing to go on about why I love it so much, why don’t I be a little more helpful and tell you more about it, and explain and show you the bare basics of my original one, and my new one!
Something I would advise before putting pen to paper on the fresh, first page of your notebook, is to do a pen test at the back. This is basically a place to try out your pens on the paper in your notebook, and see how its pages hold up. It will show you what the ghosting is like (how much you can see your pen on the other side of the page), and whether there is any bleed-through (where the ink seeps through to the other side of the page). This will let you decide which pens are best to use with your notebook. My two pen test pages are shown.
The first spread (that means a double page) is the index: actually, this is closer to what I would describe as a table of contents, but I’m not going to be picky. This is what makes the bullet journal be able to have everything that you want in it and make it easy to find. Basically, whenever you put anything in your bullet journal you write it in the index along with the page number (see note) it is on. It is up to you whether you index everything or just some things. Personally, I index each month, and then any collections that I do, so that my index doesn’t have to be too long. For my first month, I listed everything and used more than a page, so I quickly stopped that! My indexes aren’t pretty, but its functional and that is the main thing.
NB. A bullet journal uses numbered pages, if you are using a notebook with non-numbered pages (aka most of the notebooks in the world) you will need to number the pages. I suggest only numbering the odd pages (or the even pages if you prefer) to make this quicker and easier. You can also do it as you go along, but I did it all when I was about 50 pages in because I decided it would be quicker overall. As everything with your bullet journal, it is up to you.
Next, there is your future log. Basically, anything that is happening that isn’t in the month you are currently in goes in here. Depending on what your schedule is like, will depend how much space you need for this. I stuck with the original method shown in the video above, and simply split a spread into six sections, and labelled each one with the next six months. After I had done this, I realised that this did not leave space for a calendar for each month, or the birthdays or anniversaries of people I knew, so on my next spread we have 2016 at a glance (remember I started the bullet journal in July), and a space for anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions. These pages are some of those I was least happy with, but, they did the job that I needed them to, and have never felt the need to add a new one, so I can’t complain. I think this is a good way to start your future log if you don’t know how it is going to work for you; that said, I also would suggest getting a notebook with less than 400 pages for your first bullet journal – you live and learn!
When I transferred over to my new bullet journal, I changed by future log, but kept my year at a glance, and birthdays and anniversaries pages. As you can see – I did jazz them up a little. You can see what a tremendous difference six months (and lots of scouring Instagram, pinterest, facebook bullet journal pages and bullet journal blogs) can make.
My future log on the other hand, I went for a design where I could easily see dates and six months at a time – also spot the mistake in July! The dots are repeated events, or birthdays and anniversaries. This allows me to see everything at one glace, but doesn’t give me anywhere to put tasks, so we shall see how this goes.
After that you start your monthly log. This is all your appointments, meetings, holidays, special events and whatever else you would like to include of the month you are currently in. This is the first place where I differed from the video. I realised doing my future log, a list of dates didn’t really mean anything for me, so I knew I needed a monthly log that was more like a traditional calendar, so I drew one like that instead. Whilst the look of my monthly log has changed, I haven’t been tempted to differ from the calendar format, it works for me so I have stuck to it. I also didn’t include a monthly task list as suggested in the original video, this is something that I changed when I moved into my second month and would strongly suggest you do have a monthly task list. That said, rather than a task list, I use ‘goals’ because whilst some of the things on this list are things I need to do, the majority of them are things I would like to do in that month rather than need to.
As you can see, I put this calendar and goals in one spread so I can see my events and tasks all at once. I’ve kept this same basic layout since August, just changing up my fonts really, it works wonderfully for me, but I might change it up just for fun in the future so watch this space.
Before you do much else, you need to decide on your key. I started off with a different, and more complicated key to the one suggested in the video, but over time I have simplified it down to the a very simple one similar to the one in the video. My old key page is shown, but I changed all this to the second key, shown in m new bullet journal. The colour code and everything just got far too much for me. I like being able to just carry around a black pen and my notebook every day. The only one of these that is not self-explanatory is migrated. This is basically when you don’t complete a task or to-do on the day it is written in, and you put the migration sign to show you are still interested in doing it, and write it in the next day’s log (or perhaps the monthly log if it is not urgent).
Finally, you turn the page and start your daily log. These are the bulk of your bullet journal, and the bread and butter. This is basically this is where you log your tasks, to dos, write any journaling etc. It just so happens that this is where the name ‘bullet journal’ begins to make sense. The idea is that you write everything in short bullet points (or bullets). Now it’s up to you whether you keep to that or not – I tend to write tasks, events, appointments, and short notes in bullets, but if I want to do any journaling I write it out in full sentences because that is how my brain thinks about those different things. In essence, you write the date and then begin listing anything that you would like to!
That is it. That is the basics of a bullet journal. It can do so many more things, and I will go into those in future blog posts, but before this blog post gets so long no-one is ever going to finish it, I’ll just leave you with one last thing. There is nothing I regret about the beginning of my bullet journal, yes, there are things I would change if I did it again, but every part was a learning experience. So, if you are thinking of starting a bullet journal I would urge you to pick up a pen and notebook and just get started. The rest can come later. Good luck and happy bullet journaling!
Thanks for reading, keep smiling, keep planning. Until next time, bye!